By Robert+ Cook, Rector of St. Andrew’s Church of Little Rock
The other day I was eating lunch with a friend at Big Orange, my favorite burger joint in Little Rock. After finishing our meal, my friend commented that I did not eat all that was on my plate. I then remarked that he did a good job finishing off his hickory-smoked burger topped with onion strings and fries, and he quickly responded by saying, “Robert, you know I’m all in.” For days, those words continued to ring in my ears …”I’m all in.”
Like many of you, I am having conversations with people weekly about the problem of racial injustice in this country. It is a problem that has not only plagued this country for centuries, but it has plagued the world for as long as we can look back in history. Common questions today include “How do we change?” “How do we make a difference now?” “What does repentance look like?” and “What is the church planning to do?”
As I have thought about how I am to respond and what it looks like for the church to respond, I went back to the words that my friend said to me: “I’m all in.” As followers of Jesus, we must be all in, in the sense of reordering our lives around Christ, or as Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” As we behold his glory, we reveal his glory, which is what the world needs to see.
Racial injustice is a symptom of a much deeper problem. Racism is another way of not loving your neighbor as yourself. While there are many tangible ways that we can address the problem of racism, and people have written and spoken volumes on this as of late, I believe that true and lasting change will only come as we in the church reorder our lives around the life of Christ.
The Heidelberg Catechism is one of my favorite catechisms to read. Not only is it solid in its theology, it is devotional in nature. It reminds me that “I am not to belittle, hate, insult, or kill my neighbor—not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds—and I am not to be party to this in others” (HC 105); that “God wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly toward them, to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies” (HC107); and “That I do whatever I can for my neighbor’s good, that I treat others as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need.” (HC 111)
Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God among us, a kingdom that offers not only new life in Christ but a new way of living, where followers of Jesus not only reveal the heart of God to those around us, but where we become instruments through which the Holy Spirit brings life to those around us.
Regarding repentance, I see followers of Jesus needing to repent of our lack of conformity into the image of Jesus. Instead of reordering our lives around Jesus, we have allowed the culture around us to form us into its image. I realize that I have become too lax in my discipleship, and for this I must repent. Could the same be true for you?
Change is possible; cultural transformation is possible; but it can only come as we, the church, reorder our lives around the Word of God so that our lives look more like the life of Jesus. We have a long way to go, but through the power of the Holy Spirit bringing new and holy desires in us, we will love as Jesus loved and lead as he led.
Next time you are in Little Rock, call me and I will take you to Big Orange and we can talk about what it looks like to be “all in.”
Robert+ Cook graduated from Covenant Theological Seminary with a Master’s in Counseling and a Master of Divinity. He was originally ordained in the Presbyterian Church of America and spent 20 years pastoring in three PCA churches. In 2013, he was ordained as an AMiA priest and accepted the call to be Rector at St. Andrew’s Church in Little Rock. Robert is married and has three children.